Image: Joel Litwin

While the fact that birds, planes, and airports do not mix, there are a number of different ways their airports deal with a variety of birds, especially large birds such as raptors and owls. Given the size of these birds, the loss of human life can be catastrophic if one collides with a plane or ends up in one of the vessels engines.

While some locations, unfortunately, turn to hunt and killing these birds, others are striving for more humane and safe ways to extract and move the birds to a safer location. Seattle-Tacoma International Airport is one of those locations that is taking the treatment and removal of large raptors very seriously.


Airport biologists Steve Osmek and Bud Anderson head up the initiative at Washington State’s largest airport and have arranged for quite a unique transportation for the birds captured by the two biologists. The mandate of the two biologists is simple; capture any raptors in the area and safely relocate them as far away from the airport as possible.

Enter Bellair Charters or Bellingham, Washington. After the raptors are captured, Bud and Steve will tag their wings, weigh and measure the birds and affix bands to the legs of the birds. After the administrative work is taken care of, Bellair Charters will then transport the birds, at no charge to the airport, to Skagit Valley, an area about 80 miles north of Seattle and close to Anderson’s home.

So the answer is yes, travelers could very well be catching a ride with a number of large raptors as they travel from the airport.

In 2013 alone, the biologists successfully and safely removed 86 hawks and falcons from the vicinity of the airport. Of those 86 birds, 23 were red-tailed hawks and 41 of them were Cooper’s hawks.


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